Mark now, how a plain tale shall put you down.
THE few minutes that elapsed before the formal opening of court the next morning were marked by great cheerfulness. The crisp frosty air had put everybody in a good-humor. Even the prisoner looked less sombre than before, and for the first time since the beginning of his trial, deigned to turn his eyes toward the bench where Imogene sat, with a look that, while it was not exactly kind, had certainly less disdain in it than before he saw his way to a possible acquittal on the theory advanced by his counsel.
But this look, though his first, did not prove to be his last. Something in the attitude of the woman he gazed at — or was it the mystery of the heavy black veil that enveloped her features? — woke a strange doubt in his mind. Beckoning to Mr. Orcutt, he communicated with him in a low tone.
“Can it be possible,” asked he, “that any thing new could have transpired since last night to give encouragement to the prosecution?”
The lawyer, startled, glanced hastily about him and shook his head.
“No,” he cried; “impossible! What could have transpired?”
“Look at Mr. Ferris,” whispered the prisoner, “and then at the witness who wears a veil.”
With an unaccountable feeling of reluctance, Mr. Orcutt hastily complied. His first glance at the District Attorney made him thoughtful. He recognized the look which his opponent wore; he had seen it many a time before this, and knew what it indicated. As for Imogene, who could tell what went on in that determined breast? The close black veil revealed nothing. Mr. Orcutt impatiently turned back to his client.
“I think you alarm yourself unnecessarily,” he whispered. “Ferris means to fight, but what of that? He wouldn’t be fit for his position if he didn’t struggle to the last gasp even for a failing cause.”
Yet in saying this his lip took its sternest line, and from the glitter of his eye and the close contraction of his brow it looked as if he were polishing his own weapons for the conflict he thus unexpectedly saw before him.
Meantime, across the court-room, another whispered conference was going on.
“Hickory, where have you been ever since last night? I have not been able to find you anywhere.”
“I was on duty; I had a bird to look after.”
“Yes, a wild bird; one who is none too fond of its cage; a desperate one who might find means to force aside its bars and fly away.”
“What do you mean, Hickory? What nonsense is this?”
“Look at Miss Dare and perhaps you will understand.”
Horace’s eyes opened in secret alarm.
“Do you mean ——”
“I mean that I spent the whole night in tramping up and down in front of her window. And a dismal task it was too. Her lamp burned till daylight.”
Here the court was called to order and Byrd had only opportunity to ask:
“Why does she wear a veil?”
To which the other whisperingly retorted:
“Why did she spend the whole night in packing up her worldly goods and writing a letter to the Congregational minister to be sent after the adjournment of court to-day?”
“Did she do that?”
“Hickory, don’t you know — haven’t you been told what she is expected to say or do here to-day?”
“You only guess?”
“No, I don’t guess.”
“You fear, then?”
“Fear! Well, that’s a big word to a fellow like me. I don’t know as I fear any thing; I’m curious, that is all.”
Mr. Byrd drew back, looked over at Imogene, and involuntarily shook his head. What was in the mind of this mysterious woman? What direful purpose or shadow of doom lay behind the veil that separated her from the curiosity and perhaps the sympathy of the surrounding crowd? It was in vain to question; he could only wait in secret anxiety for the revelations which the next few minutes might bring.
The defence having rested the night before, the first action of the Judge on the opening of the court was to demand whether the prosecution had any rebuttal testimony to offer.
Mr. Ferris instantly rose.
“Miss Dare, will you retake the stand,” said he.
Immediately Mr. Orcutt, who up to the last moment had felt his case as secure as if it had indeed been founded on a rock, bounded to his feet, white as the witness herself.
“I object!” he cried. “The witness thus recalled by the counsel of the prosecution has had ample opportunity to lay before the court all the evidence in her possession. I submit it to the court whether my learned opponent should not have exhausted his witness before he rested his case.”
“Mr. Ferris,” asked the Judge, turning to the District Attorney, “do you recall this witness for the purpose of introducing fresh testimony in support of your case or merely to disprove the defence?”
“Your honor,” was the District Attorney’s reply, “I ought to say in fairness to my adversary and to the court, that since the case was closed a fact has come to my knowledge of so startling and conclusive a nature that I feel bound to lay it before the jury. From this witness alone can we hope to glean this fact; and as I had no information on which to base a question concerning it in her former examination, I beg the privilege of reopening my case to that extent.”
“Then the evidence you desire to submit is not in rebuttal?” queried the Judge.
“I do not like to say that,” rejoined the District Attorney, adroitly. “I think it may bear directly upon the question whether the prisoner could catch the train at Monteith Quarry if he left the widow’s house after the murder. If the evidence I am about to offer be true, he certainly could.”
Thoroughly alarmed now and filled with the dismay which a mysterious threat is always calculated to produce, Mr. Orcutt darted a wild look of inquiry at Imogene, and finding her immovable behind her thick veil, turned about and confronted the District Attorney with a most sarcastic smile upon his blanched and trembling lips.
“Does my learned friend suppose the court will receive any such ambiguous explanation as this? If the testimony sought from this witness is by way of rebuttal, let him say so; but if it is not, let him be frank enough to admit it, that I may in turn present my objections to the introduction of any irrelevant evidence at this time.”
“The testimony I propose to present through this witness is in the way of rebuttal,” returned Mr Ferris, severely. “The argument advanced by the defence, that the prisoner could not have left Mrs. Clemmens’ house at ten minutes before twelve and arrived at Monteith Quarry Station at twenty minutes past one, is not a tenable one, and I purpose to prove it by this witness.”
Mr. Orcutt’s look of anxiety changed to one of mingled amazement and incredulity.
“By this witness! You have chosen a peculiar one for the purpose,” he ironically exclaimed, more and more shaken from his self-possession by the quiet bearing of his opponent, and the silent air of waiting which marked the stately figure of her whom, as he had hitherto believed, he thoroughly comprehended. “Your Honor,” he continued, “I withdraw my objections; I should really like to hear how Miss Dare or any lady can give evidence on this point.”
And he sank back into his seat with a look at his client in which professional bravado strangely struggled with something even deeper than alarm.
“This must be an exciting moment to the prisoner,” whispered Hickory to Byrd.
“So, so. But mark his control, will you? He is less cut up than Orcutt.”
“Look at his eyes, though. If any thing could pierce that veil of hers, you would think such a glance might.”
“Ah, he is trying his influence over her at last.”
“But it is too late.”
Meantime the District Attorney had signified again to Miss Dare his desire that she should take the stand. Slowly, and like a person in a dream, she arose, unloosed her veil, dragged it from before her set features, and stepped mechanically forward to the place assigned her. What was there in the face thus revealed that called down an instantaneous silence upon the court, and made the momentary pause that ensued memorable in the minds of all present? It was not that she was so pale, though her close-fitting black dress, totally unrelieved by any suspicion of white, was of a kind to bring out any startling change in her complexion; nor was there visible in her bearing any trace of the feverish excitement which had characterized it the evening before; yet of all the eyes that were fixed upon her — and there were many in that crowd whose only look a moment before had been one of heartless curiosity — there were none which were not filled with compassion and more or less dread.
Meanwhile, she remained like a statue on the spot where she had taken her stand, and her eyes, which in her former examination had met the court with the unflinching gaze of an automaton, were lowered till the lashes swept her cheek.
“Miss Dare,” asked the District Attorney, as soon as he could recover from his own secret emotions of pity and regret, “will you tell us where you were at the hour of noon on the morning Mrs. Clemmens was murdered?”
Before she could answer, before in fact her stiff and icy lips could part, Mr. Orcutt had risen impetuously to his feet, like a man bound to contend every step of the way with the unknown danger that menaced him.
“I object!” he cried, in the changed voice of a deeply disturbed man, while those who had an interest in the prisoner at this juncture, could not but notice that he, too, showed signs of suppressed feeling, and for the first time since the beginning of the trial, absolutely found his self-command insufficient to keep down the rush of color that swept up to his swarthy cheek.
“The question,” continued Mr. Orcutt, “is not to elicit testimony in rebuttal.”
“Will my learned friend allow the witness to give her answer, instead of assuming what it is to be?”
“I will not,” retorted his adversary. “A child could see that such a question is not admissible at this stage of the case.”
“I am sure my learned friend would not wish me to associate him with any such type of inexperience?” suggested Mr. Ferris, grimly.
But the sarcasm, which at one time would have called forth a stinging retort from Mr. Orcutt, passed unheeded. The great lawyer was fighting for his life, for his heart’s life, for the love and hand of Imogene — a recompense which at this moment her own unconsidered action, or the constraining power of a conscience of whose might he had already received such heart-rending manifestation, seemed about to snatch from his grasp forever. Turning to the Judge, he said:
“I will not delay the case by bandying words with my esteemed friend, but appeal at once to the Court as to whether the whereabouts of Miss Dare on that fatal morning can have any thing to do with the defence we have proved.”
“Your Honor,” commenced the District Attorney, calmly following the lead of his adversary, “I am ready to stake my reputation on the declaration that this witness is in possession of a fact that overturns the whole fabric of the defence. If the particular question I have made use of, in my endeavor to elicit this fact, is displeasing to my friend, I will venture upon another less ambiguous, if more direct and perhaps leading.” And turning again to the witness, Mr. Ferris calmly inquired:
“Did you or did you not see the prisoner on the morning of the assault, at a time distinctly known by you to be after ten minutes to twelve?”
It was out. The line of attack meditated by Mr. Ferris was patent to everybody. A murmur of surprise and interest swept through the court-room, while Mr. Orcutt, who in spite of his vague fears was any thing but prepared for a thrust of this vital nature, started and cast short demanding looks from Imogene to Mansell, as if he would ask them what fact this was which through ignorance or presumption they had conspired to keep from him. The startled look which he surprised on the stern face of the prisoner, showed him there was every thing to fear in her reply, and bounding again to his feet, he was about to make some further attempt to stave off the impending calamity, when the rich voice of Imogene was heard saying:
“Gentlemen, if you will allow me to tell my story unhindered, I think I shall soonest satisfy both the District Attorney and the counsel for the prisoner.”
And raising her eyes with a slow and heavy movement from the floor, she fixed them in a meaning way upon the latter.
At once convinced that he had been unnecessarily alarmed, Mr. Orcutt sank back into his seat, and Imogene slowly proceeded.
She commenced in a forced tone and with a sudden quick shudder that made her words come hesitatingly and with strange breaks: “I have been asked — two questions by Mr. Ferris — I prefer — to answer the first. He asked me — where I was at the hour Mrs. Clemmens was murdered.”
She paused so long one had time to count her breaths as they came in gasps to her white lips.
“I have no further desire to hide from you the truth. I was with Mrs. Clemmens in her own house.”
At this acknowledgment so astonishing, and besides so totally different from the one he had been led to expect, Mr. Ferris started as if a thunder-bolt had fallen at his feet.
“In Mrs. Clemmens’ house!” he repeated, amid the excited hum of a hundred murmuring voices. “Did you say, in Mrs. Clemmens’ house?”
“Yes,” she returned, with a wild, ironical smile that at once assured Mr. Ferris of his helplessness. “I am on oath now, and I assert that on the day and at the hour Mrs. Clemmens was murdered, I was in her house and in her dining-room. I had come there secretly,” she proceeded, with a sudden feverish fluency that robbed Mr. Ferris of speech, and in fact held all her auditors spell-bound. “I had been spending an hour or so at Professor Darling’s, whose house in West Side is, as many here know, at the very end of Summer Avenue, and close to the woods that run along back of Mrs. Clemmens’ cottage. I had been sitting alone in the observatory, which is at the top of one of the towers, but being suddenly seized with a desire to see the widow and make that promised attempt at persuading her to reconsider her decision in regard to the money her — her — the prisoner wanted, I came down, and unknown to any one in the house, stole away to the woods and so to the widow’s cottage. It was noon when I got there, or very near it, for her company, if she had had any, was gone, and she was engaged in setting the clock where ——”
Why did she pause? The District Attorney, utterly stupefied by his surprise, had made no sign; neither had Mr. Orcutt. Indeed, it looked as if the latter could not have moved, much less spoken, even if he had desired it. Thought, feeling, life itself, seemed to be at a standstill within him as he sat with a face like clay, waiting for words whose import he perhaps saw foreshadowed in her wild and terrible mien. But though his aspect was enough to stop her, it was not upon him she was gazing when the words tripped on her lips. It was upon the prisoner, on the man who up to this time had borne himself with such iron-like composure and reserve, but who now, with every sign of feeling and alarm, had started forward and stood surveying her, with his hand uplifted in the authoritative manner of a master.
The next instant he sank back, feeling the eye of the Judge upon him; but the signal had been made, and many in that court-room looked to see Imogene falter or break down. But she, although fascinated, perhaps moved, by this hint of feeling from one who had hitherto met all the exigencies of the hour with a steady and firm composure, did not continue silent at his bidding. On the contrary, her purpose, whatever it was, seemed to acquire new force, for turning from him with a strange, unearthly glare on her face, she fixed her glances on the jury and went steadily on.
“I have said,” she began, “that Mrs. Clemmens was winding her clock. When I came in she stepped down, and a short and angry colloquy commenced between us. She did not like my coming there. She did not appreciate my interest in her nephew. She made me furious, frenzied, mad. I— I turned away — then I came back. She was standing with her face lifted toward her clock, as though she no longer heeded or remembered my presence. I— I don’t know what came to me; whether it was hatred or love that maddened my brain — but ——”
She did not finish; she did not need to. The look she gave, the attitude she took, the appalling gesture which she made, supplied the place of language. In an instant Mr. Ferris, Mr. Orcutt, all the many and confused spectators who hung upon her words as if spell-bound, realized that instead of giving evidence inculpating the prisoner, she was giving evidence accusing herself; that, in other words, Imogene Dare, goaded to madness by the fearful alternative of either destroying her lover or sacrificing herself, had yielded to the claims of her love or her conscience, and in hearing of judge and jury, proclaimed herself to be the murderess of Mrs. Clemmens.
The moment that followed was frightful. The prisoner, who was probably the only man present who foresaw her intention when she began to speak, had sunk back into his seat and covered his face with his hands long before she reached the fatal declaration. But the spectacle presented by Mr. Orcutt was enough, as with eyes dilated and lips half parted in consternation, he stood before them a victim of overwhelming emotion; so overcome, indeed, as scarcely to be able to give vent to the one low and memorable cry that involuntarily left his lips as the full realization of what she had done smote home to his stricken breast.
As for Mr. Ferris, he stood dumb, absolutely robbed of speech by this ghastly confession he had unwillingly called from his witness’ lips; while slowly from end to end of that court-room the wave of horror spread, till Imogene, her cause, and that of the wretched prisoner himself, seemed swallowed up in one fearful tide of unreality and nightmare.
The first gleam of relief came from the Judge.
“Miss Dare,” said he, in his slow, kindly way that nothing could impair, “do you realize the nature of the evidence you have given to the court?”
Her slowly falling head and white face, from which all the fearful excitement was slowly ebbing in a dead despair, gave answer for her.
“I fear that you are not in a condition to realize the effect of your words,” the Judge went on. “Sympathy for the prisoner or the excitement of being recalled to the stand has unnerved or confused you. Take time, Miss Dare, the court will wait; reconsider your words, and then tell us the truth about this matter.”
But Imogene, with white lips and drooped head, answered hurriedly:
“I have nothing to consider. I have told, or attempted to tell, how Mrs. Clemmens came to her death. She was struck down by me; Craik Mansell there is innocent.”
At this repetition in words of what she had before merely intimated by a gesture, the Judge ceased his questions, and the horror of the multitude found vent in one long, low, but irrepressible murmur. Taking advantage of the momentary disturbance, Byrd turned to his colleague with the agitated inquiry:
“Hickory, is this what you have had in your mind for the last few days?”
“This,” repeated the other, with an air of careful consideration, assumed, as Byrd thought, to conceal any emotion which he might have felt; “no, no, not really. I— I don’t know what I thought. Not this though.” And he fixed his eyes upon Imogene’s fallen countenance, with an expression of mingled doubt and wonder, as baffling in its nature as the tone of voice he had used.
“But,” stammered Byrd, with an earnestness that almost partook of the nature of pleading, “she is not speaking the truth, of course. What we heard her say in the hut ——”
“Hush!” interposed the other, with a significant gesture and a sudden glance toward the prisoner and his counsel; “watching is better than talking just now. Besides, Orcutt is going to speak.”
It was so. After a short and violent conflict with the almost overwhelming emotions that had crushed upon him with the words and actions of Imogene, the great lawyer had summoned up sufficient control over himself to reassume the duties of his position and face once more the expectant crowd, and the startled, if not thoroughly benumbed, jury.
His first words had the well-known ring, and, like a puff of cool air through a heated atmosphere, at once restored the court-room to its usual condition of formality and restraint.
“This is not evidence, but the raving of frenzy,” he said, in impassioned tones. “The witness has been tortured by the demands of the prosecution, till she is no longer responsible for her words.” And turning toward the District Attorney, who, at the first sound of his adversary’s voice, had roused himself from the stupor into which he had been thrown by the fearful and unexpected turn which Imogene’s confession had taken, he continued: “If my learned friend is not lost to all feelings of humanity, he will withdraw from the stand a witness laboring under a mental aberration of so serious a nature.”
Mr. Ferris was an irritable man, but he was touched with sympathy for his friend, reeling under so heavy a blow. He therefore forbore to notice this taunt save by a low bow, but turned at once to the Judge.
“Your Honor,” said he, “I desire to be understood by the Court, that the statement which has just been made in your hearing by this witness, is as much of a surprise to me as to any one in this court-room. The fact which I proposed to elicit from her testimony was of an entirely different nature. In the conversation which we held last night ——”
But Mr. Orcutt, vacillating between his powerful concern for Imogene, and his duty to his client, would not allow the other to proceed.
“I object,” said he, “to any attempt at influencing the jury by the statement of any conversation which may have passed between the District Attorney and the witness. From its effects we may judge something of its nature, but with its details we have nothing to do.”
And raising his voice till it filled the room like a clarion, Mr. Orcutt said:
“The moment is too serious for wrangling. A spectacle, the most terrible that can be presented to the eyes of man, is before you. A young, beautiful, and hitherto honored woman, caught in the jaws of a cruel fate and urged on by the emotions of her sex, which turn ever toward self-sacrifice, has, in a moment of mistaken zeal or frantic terror, allowed herself to utter words which sound like a criminal confession. May it please your Honor and Gentlemen of the Jury, this is an act to awaken compassion in the breast of every true man. Neither my client nor myself can regard it in any other light. Though his case were ten times more critical than it is, and condemnation awaited him at your hands instead of a triumphant acquittal, he is not the man I believe him, if he would consent to accept a deliverance founded upon utterances so manifestly frenzied and devoid of truth. I therefore repeat the objection I have before urged. I ask your Honor now to strike out all this testimony as irrelevant in rebuttal, and I beg our learned friend to close an examination as unprofitable to his own cause as to mine.”
“I agree with my friend,” returned Mr. Ferris, “that the moment is one unfit for controversy. If it please the Court, therefore, I will withdraw the witness, though by so doing I am forced to yield all hope of eliciting the important fact I had relied upon to rebut the defence.”
And obedient to the bow of acquiescence he received from the Judge, the District Attorney turned to Miss Dare and considerately requested her to leave the stand.
But she, roused by the sound of her name perhaps, looked up, and meeting the eye of the Judge, said:
“Pardon me, your Honor, but I do not desire to leave the stand till I have made clear to all who hear me that it is I, not the prisoner, who am responsible for Mrs. Clemmens’ death. The agony which I have been forced to undergo in giving testimony against him, has earned me the right to say the words that prove his innocence and my own guilt.”
“But,” said the Judge, “we do not consider you in any condition to give testimony in court to-day, even against yourself. If what you say is true, you shall have ample opportunities hereafter to confirm and establish your statements, for you must know, Miss Dare, that no confession of this nature will be considered sufficient without testimony corroborative of its truth.”
“But, your Honor,” she returned, with a dreadful calmness, “I have corroborative testimony.” And amid the startled looks of all present, she raised her hand and pointed with steady forefinger at the astounded and by-no-means gratified Hickory. “Let that man be recalled,” she cried, “and asked to repeat the conversation he had with a young servant-girl called Roxana, in Professor Darling’s observatory some ten weeks ago.”
The suddenness of her action, the calm assurance with which it was made, together with the intention it evinced of summoning actual evidence to substantiate her confession, almost took away the breath of the assembled multitude. Even Mr. Orcutt seemed shaken by it, and stood looking from the outstretched hand of this woman he so adored, to the abashed countenance of the rough detective, with a wonder that for the first time betrayed the presence of alarm. Indeed, to him as to others, the moment was fuller of horror than when she made her first self-accusation, for what at that time partook of the vagueness of a dream, seemed to be acquiring the substance of an awful reality.
Imogene alone remained unmoved. Still with her eyes fixed on Hickory, she continued:
“He has not told you all he knows about this matter, any more than I. If my word needs corroboration, look to him.”
And taking advantage of the sensation which this last appeal occasioned, she waited where she was for the Judge to speak, with all the calmness of one who has nothing more to fear or hope for in this world.
But the Judge sat aghast at this spectacle of youth and beauty insisting upon its own guilt, and neither Mr. Ferris nor Mr. Orcutt having words for this emergency, a silence, deep as the feeling which had been aroused, gradually settled over the whole court. It was fast becoming oppressive, when suddenly a voice, low but firm, and endowed with a strange power to awake and hold the attention, was heard speaking in that quarter of the room whence Mr. Orcutt’s commanding tones had so often issued. It was an unknown voice, and for a minute a doubt seemed to rest upon the assembled crowd as to whom it belonged.
But the change that had come into Imogene’s face, as well as the character of the words that were uttered, soon convinced them it was the prisoner himself. With a start, every one turned in the direction of the dock. The sight that met their eyes seemed a fit culmination of the scene through which they had just passed. Erect, noble, as commanding in appearance and address as the woman who still held her place on the witness stand, Craik Mansell faced the judge and jury with a quiet, resolute, but courteous assurance, that seemed at once to rob him of the character of a criminal, and set him on a par with the able and honorable men by whom he was surrounded. Yet his words were not those of a belied man, nor was his plea one of innocence.
“I ask pardon,” he was saying, “for addressing the court directly; first of all, the pardon of my counsel, whose ability has never been so conspicuous as in this case, and whose just resentment, if he were less magnanimous and noble, I feel I am now about to incur.”
Mr. Orcutt turned to him a look of surprise and severity, but the prisoner saw nothing but the face of the Judge, and continued:
“I would have remained silent if the disposition which your Honor and the District Attorney proposed to make of this last testimony were not in danger of reconsideration from the appeal which the witness has just made. I believe, with you, that her testimony should be disregarded. I intend, if I have the power, that it shall be disregarded.”
The Judge held up his hand, as if to warn the prisoner and was about to speak.
“I entreat that I may be heard,” said Mansell, with the utmost calmness. “I beg the Court not to imagine that I am about to imitate the witness in any sudden or ill-considered attempt at a confession. All I intend is that her self-accusation shall not derive strength or importance from any doubts of my guilt which may spring from the defence which has been interposed in my behalf.”
Mr. Orcutt, who, from the moment the prisoner began to speak, had given evidences of a great indecision as to whether he should allow his client to continue or not, started at these words, so unmistakably pointing toward a demolishment of his whole case, and hurriedly rose. But a glance at Imogene seemed to awaken a new train of thought, and he as hurriedly reseated himself.
The prisoner, seeing he had nothing to fear from his counsel’s interference, and meeting with no rebuke from the Judge, went calmly on:
“Yesterday I felt differently in regard to this matter. If I could be saved from my fate by a defence seemingly so impregnable, I was willing to be so saved, but to-day I would be a coward and a disgrace to my sex if, in face of the generous action of this woman, I allowed a falsehood of whatever description to place her in peril, or to stand between me and the doom that probably awaits me. Sir,” he continued, turning for the first time to Mr. Orcutt, with a gesture of profound respect, “you had been told that the path from Mrs. Clemmens’ house to the bridge, and so on to Monteith Quarry Station, could not be traversed in ninety minutes, and you believed it. You were not wrong. It cannot be gone over in that time. But I now say to your Honor and to the jury, that the distance from my aunt’s house to the Quarry Station can be made in that number of minutes if a way can be found to cross the river without going around by the bridge. I know,” he proceeded, as a torrent of muttered exclamations rose on his ear, foremost among which was that of the much-discomfited Hickory, “that to many of you, to all of you, perhaps, all means for doing this seem to be lacking to the chance wayfarer, but if there were a lumberman here, he would tell you that the logs which are frequently floated down this stream to the station afford an easy means of passage to one accustomed to ride them, as I have been when a lad, during the year I spent in the Maine woods. At all events, it was upon a log that happened to be lodged against the banks, and which I pushed out into the stream by means of the ‘pivy’ or long spiked pole which I found lying in the grass at its side, that I crossed the river on that fatal day; and if the detective, who has already made such an effort to controvert the defence, will risk an attempt at this expedient for cutting short his route, I have no doubt he will be able to show you that a man can pass from Mrs. Clemmens’ house to the station at Monteith Quarry, not only in ninety minutes, but in less, if the exigencies of the case seem to demand it. I did it.”
And without a glance at Imogene, but with an air almost lofty in its pride and manly assertion, the prisoner sank back into his seat, and resumed once more his quiet and unshaken demeanor.
This last change in the kaleidoscope of events, that had been shifting before their eyes for the last half hour, was too much for the continued equanimity of a crowd already worked up into a state of feverish excitement. It had become apparent that by stripping away his defence, Mansell left himself naked to the law. In this excitement of the jury, consequent upon the self-accusation of Imogene, the prisoner’s admission might prove directly fatal to him. He was on trial for this crime; public justice demanded blood for blood, and public excitement clamored for a victim. It was dangerous to toy with a feeling but one degree removed from the sentiment of a mob. The jury might not stop to sympathize with the self-abnegation of these two persons willing to die for each other. They might say: “The way is clear as to the prisoner at least; he has confessed his defence is false; the guilty interpose false defences; we are acquit before God and men if we convict him out of his own mouth.”
The crowd in the court-room was saying all this and more, each man to his neighbor. A clamor of voices next to impossible to suppress rose over the whole room, and not even the efforts of the officers of the court, exerted to their full power in the maintenance of order, could have hushed the storm, had not the spectators become mute with expectation at seeing Mr. Ferris and Mr. Orcutt, summoned by a sign from the Judge, advance to the front of the bench and engage in an earnest conference with the Court. A few minutes afterward the Judge turned to the jury and announced that the disclosures of the morning demanded a careful consideration by the prosecution, that an adjournment was undoubtedly indispensable, and that the jury should refrain from any discussion of the case, even among themselves, until it was finally given them under the charge of the Court. The jury expressed their concurrence by an almost unanimous gesture of assent, and the crier proclaimed an adjournment until the next day at ten o’clock.
Imogene, still sitting in the witness chair, saw the prisoner led forth by the jailer without being able to gather, in the whirl of the moment, any indication that her dreadful sacrifice — for she had made wreck of her life in the eyes of the world whether her confession were true or false — had accomplished any thing save to drive the man she loved to the verge of that doom from which she had sought to deliver him.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50